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    North America Travel

    Let’s Go Gondola in Gig Harbor Washington

    Authentic Gondola Experience in Beautiful Gig Harbor

    Location: Gig Harbor Washington USA

    It’s been three years since John Synco realized his dream of starting his own Gondola business, Gig Harbor Gondola.  But John isn’t Italian.  Nor does he live in Italy.  He is just another amazing entrepreneur in the small town of Gig Harbor Washington who made his dreams come true.

    John had been a professional Gondolier in Southern California for several years starting in 2002.  He had traveled to Venice

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    Onboard Nellie

    several times and loved the beautiful boats and the life of the Gondolier.

    A friend of John’s purchased two authentic Venetian Gondolas a few years back. At the time John was living with his wife and young daughter in Edmonds, having recently left California for Washington.  John wanted one of the gondolas, but knew the waters in Edmonds wouldn’t be conducive to a peaceful gondola ride.

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    Peacefully slicing through the water

    So after searching the area, the family moved to Gig Harbor, with its peaceful small harbor, to start Gig Harbor Gondola. His new Venetian Gondola christened Nellie.  A dream realized.  Three years later John’s business is his full-time, year-around job.  And he is so good at it.

    I took my Mom on the gondola for an evening one-hour tour of the beautiful Gig Harbor Bay.  The $85  one hour tour is for two people.  You can add up to four more people for $20 each.  You can also do a one and half hour tour for $115 for two people and again each additional person is $20 up to six people maximum.

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    My Mom and I enjoying the ride

    The Gig Harbor Gondola price includes appetizers (meats, cheese, grapes and crackers) and you are welcome to bring additional food and drinks.

    John has done his research, and even though he is a relative newcomer to Gig Harbor he really knows the history of the town.  His tour provides lots of fun information, history and insight into this tiny community on the bay, nestled so peacefully in the shadow of Mount Rainer.

    The night we toured was calm with little wind and though a bit chilly, the sun was shining.  The gondola includes blankets though just in case.  Through out our tour one harbor seal followed the gondola around the bay, curiously watching us and

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    The mouth of Gig Harbor Bay and it’s welcoming lighthouse

    keeping just to the right of John’s oar.  Speaking of John’s oar, he has learned the craft of being a gondolier perfectly.  The rowing oar, which is not attached to the boat, is used to both propel the boat and as a rudder. Our ride was smooth and silent and safe.

    After learning and chatting as we calmly sliced through the water, John took a moment to serenade us with a beautiful Italian ballad.  I have no idea what he was singing about – but it was lovely.  I’m sure people on shore could hear his crisp tenor voice across the water.

    Gig Harbor Gondola

    The sun sets on our tour

    Spending time on Gig Harbor bay with Gig Harbor Gondola is always a treat.  Seeing this lovely town from the water gives you such a different perspective.  And now I’ve seen it through new eyes, the eyes of John and Nellie the Gondola.  Bellissimo!

    Grazie John!  What a lovely, relaxing excursion.


    Make your reservation to enjoy Gig Harbor Gondola today! Click here!

    Visit Gig Harbor

    Food & Drink  --  North America Travel

    Being an Ambassador of Food

    And Remembering Anthony Bourdain

    Location: Gig Harbor WA USA

    I’ve decided I can be an Ambassador of food.  My new fabulous role.

    When we used to live in Gig Harbor (Washington USA) I started a cooking club of like-minded friends.  Usually I taught the class and it focused on teaching one of the cuisines I had learned while on a recent trip somewhere in the world.  We also met a few other times when other cooking club

    Ambassadors of Food

    The Gig Harbor Cooking Club

    members organized events such as wine tasting, and a class with a chef at a local restaurant.

    Our Cooking Club included 14 super fun people.  Our time together was always interesting and educational.  And always involved lots of food and

    Ambassador of food

    Enjoying cooking and eating


    Since I left the USA the cooking club kind of fell apart.  But I returned determined to bring it back together, at least for one performance, while I was here in Gig Harbor.

    Yesterday eleven of our fourteen cooks gathered

    Ambassador of Food

    In the kitchen

    at the home of one of the members and I taught a class on Vietnamese and Thai cooking.  We had this on the calendar for several months.  But the suicide of my cooking, traveling, world ambassador mentor Anthony Bourdain weighed heavy on my mind – particularly since Vietnamese cuisine I knew was Anthony’s favorite.

    Ambassador of food


    I decided I wanted to talk to my cooking friends about how overwhelmingly sad I felt that Anthony Bourdain chose to take his life.  So that discussion is how we began our class.  Everyone felt the same lost and shocked feeling – all of us knowing it could have been prevented.  We talked a while about Tony and about suicide and about our country and its many troubles. And then to ease some of that heartache, we began to cook.

    It was fun, chaotic, delicious and exhausting.  I love to teach and this kind of event comes very naturally to  me, but it was tough cooking and teaching in someone else kitchen.  But we made it work, didn’t burn the house down, and had a great time. In Tony’s memory.

    Ambassador of food

    Combining the flavors

    I realize, through teaching new cuisines to open-minded cooks, that I am in my own small way, an ambassador like Anthony.  I’ve talked about this before – how I see my world travel as an ambassador role.  Showing people around the world what “real” Americans are like.  So it’s another way to open minds and hearts – I can bring cuisines back here to my friends, help them embrace new cultures and experiences and make the world a better place, one delicious mouthful at a time.

    It’s certainly not Parts Unknown.  But it makes me feel happy.

    I’m grateful to this group of cooks who enjoy the same things I enjoy and so I’ve given them a challenge – I promise to teach another class when I come back to the USA again next summer, but on one condition.  They must organize themselves and have at least one Cooking Club event while I am out of the country.

    Challenge on. Let’s make Tony proud.


    North America Travel

    Peaceful Paradise of Zion and Bryce

    Worth the Trip

    Location: Orderville Utah USA

    Our visit to the USA has been a bit frantic and fast-paced until the past few days as we have enjoyed the peaceful paradise of Zion and Bryce National Parks in Utah.

    Hiking the river valley in Zion

    Incredible Bryce Canyon

    Rock cliffs in Zion

    This is my second visit to these two incredibly beautiful US National Parks. And probably not my last. The beauty here is astounding. The geological features astonishing. Even if you aren’t a religious person as you stand on the edge of somewhere like Bryce Canyon you are filled with awe and a sense of spirituality. An awe of nature, our planet, and how small each of us are in the whole scheme of things.

    With my friends on the edge of Bryce Canyon

    We spent five fun-filled days with two couples who we have known for forty years. College friends of Arne’s and their wives. We have traveled together several times before and it’s a good fit.

    This time we met for one night in Las Vegas then

    Me and Arne enjoying the view

    drove to Orderville Utah. Orderville is perfectly placed half way between Zion and Bryce. We rented a spectacular log cabin and spent three days enjoying the peaceful paradise of Zion and Bryce – hiking and exploring and marveling at these diverse parks.

    Sixty candles on the cake. Wow.

    Me in the Virgin River Zion

    We also celebrated the three guys 60th birthdays as they all turn sixty within three weeks of each other this month. It was a wonderful celebration. A wonderful reunion. And a wonderful reminder of how lucky we are; good friends, amazing travel and a healthy life well-lived.


    North America Travel

    Nashville For First Timers

    What a Fabulous City

    Location: Nashville Tennessee USA

    Nashville for first timers

    Breakfast at Bisquit Love

    Nashville for first timers. Not what I was expecting. What a wild place – crazy, historic, loud, interesting and delicious. Nashville for first timers can be a bit of a surprise though. At least it was for me!

    Nashville for first timers

    Famous Jacks BBQ on Broadway

    My high school girl friends and I went a bit rogue this time in choosing our destination for our (almost) annual girls get away.  Nashville made the cut and eight of us put on our mud kickers and headed out for a country music weekend.

    We stayed at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. Unfortunately we didn’t realize how spread out this city is. So my first bit of advice is be prepared to need to Uber and cab it all over town. We spent a ton of money on that – big surprise there. So if you are a Nashville for first timers virgin be prepared!

    Nashville for first timers

    Visiting Antique Archeology

    The Old Town Hop On Hop Off  Trolley was a good investment though when you are doing Nashville for first timers. We bought the first day ticket for $35 and added the second day for an additional $10.  I really loved the drivers of these trolleys who gave us great history, interesting stories all served up with southern charm and humor.

    One of my favorite things we did from the Hop On Hop Off was visit the famous and historic Ryman Theatre where The Grand Ole Opry performed from for many decades. The theatre is really amazing and the tour was was interesting.

    Nashville for first timers

    Historic Ryman Theatre

    Nashville for first timers

    Nelson Greenbrier Distillery

    Also I loved our visit to the historic Marathon Motor Company building. Today it’s filled with funky shops including the Antique Archeology of American Pickers fame. Also on this same block is the Nelson Greenbrier Whiskey Distillery.  The $11 tour was really fascinating and included a tasting of four different spirits they distill.

    From the Hop on Hop Off we also found Music Row fascinating and surprising how these famous recording studios are mostly in tiny houses and not in huge skyscrapers.

    Blake Shelton’s brand new Ole Red bar on Broadway

    The Honky Tonk scene on Broadway in downtown Nashville is way crazier than I imagined. It was Las Vegas with the volumn turned up to eleven. Wild. Thousands and thousands of people, hundreds and hundreds of bars and restaurants and every single one has live music blasting all day long.

    Apparently Nashville is the number one destination in the USA for bachelorette parties. Young scantily clad brides and bridesmaid groups are whooping it up on the sidewalks, in the back of rented flatbeds and open top busses and on the cycle beer trucks. Loud and ready to party. Wow.

    Nashville for first timers

    With my friends at The Grand Ole Opry Hotel

    We took an Uber 20 minutes out to the Gaylord
    Grand Ole Opry Hotel. This is also the place where the Grand Ole  Opry now has its home. But the 3000 room hotel is a destination in itself. Again I was reminded of Vegas – ornate and over the top with waterfalls, jungles, orchids and a riverboat cruise.

    Nashville for first timers

    Country Music Hall Of Fame

    Nashville knows it’s audience and country music fans are very loyal to this town. Fans can spend hours or days at the Country Music Hall Of Fame as well as many other museums including Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, George Jones and others. Tennessee was also home to three US Presidents (Jackson, Johnson, Polk)and the area around Nashville is full of history relevant to our country.

    Nashville for first timers

    Corn Cakes at the historic Woolworth’s

    I ate a ton – everything from corn cakes to steak, hot chicken, biscuits and macaroni and cheese. Southern comfort food as well as delicious alternatives are in abundance in this town of abundance.

    You can spend a weekend or stay a week and still never see and do everything here.  It’s a great town – alive! Nashville for first timers or do it again? So much fun!

    Y’all should come now ya hear?

    Everything Else Fabulous  --  North America Travel

    Things I’m Looking Forward to in the USA

    On Our Way

    Location: Royal Caribbean

    Today we board Voyager of the Seas, a beautiful Royal Carribean ship for the 8500 mile journey from Sydney to Seattle. This will be the longest cruise we have ever taken – 23 days. Plenty of time to think about the things I’m looking forward to in the USA.

    I am looking forward to a slow decompression and a slow and easy re-entry to the culture of the United States.

    No matter how long you are out of the United States I now realize there are some things you just long for.  It’s not a big list for me, but it’s made up

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    Time together as a family

    of the things I find comforting;

    The numbwr one things I’m looking forward to in the USA is My Kids – my grown children are my pride and joy and I really look forward to a lot of time together this summer.  We also look forward to seeing all the rest of our family as well.  Many things have happened in 18 months and we all have a lot of catching up to do.

    Tacos – Good ole American Tacos.  I need one right now.  I’ve been on the search for tacos everywhere we travel and it is definitely one of the things I’m looking forward to in the USA.

    French press – the world is ruled by Nescafé

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    Fish Tacos


    instant coffee and I miss my morning French Press.

    Cycling – one of the simplest and best exercise routines I’ve ever had – riding my bike several times a week and I just can’t wait to be back on my bike.

    Having all food orders arrive at the table at the

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA


    same time – last night I finished my dinner before Arne’s even arrived. This is common in many countries, but almost unheard of in the states and definitely one of the things now I’m looking forward to in the USA.

    Washer and Dryer – I think American’s take these appliances for granted more than any other and I certainly look forward to that convenience again for a while.

    Not needing to carry a roll of toilet paper in my

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA


    purse- ‘nuff said.

    Going to the Movie – I have only seen a movie a couple of times on an airplane in the past 18 months and I have not watched TV at all.  I do enjoy a movie on the big screen and I’m looking forward to that.

    Driving- I’ve only driven once in the past 18 months.  It will be great being behind the wheel and driving with relatively sane drivers again.

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA


    Alaskan Salmon and Dungeness Crab – growing up on these foods my mouth waters at the thought of them.  I NEVER order salmon anywhere because I know it is likely farmed and crab isn’t crab unless it’s Dungeness in my book so I can’t wait to taste these favs again – I’ve been spoiled by Pacific Northwest seafood and it is certainly one of the things I’m looking forward to in the USA.

    My Book Club, My Cooking Club, My High School Girls, The Martini Mamas and all my other friends – I look forward to those moments of loud joyful

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA



    laughter, funny stories, reminiscing and sharing.  And although I will only have a few opportunities to catch up this summer it is something I’m excited to do.

    Safeway – I miss my favorite grocery store and my tried and true staple items and ingredients.  It will be great fun to have a fully stocked American kitchen and I can’t wait to cook for my family just like the old days.

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    More crab

    Ten varieties of lettuce, a dozen varieties of apples, eight different kinds of potatoes – I look forward to the gluttony of produce we have at our fingertips in the USA.

    My Hairdresser and my Manicurist – although I have had pretty good luck with both haircuts and manicures out here in the big wide world, it will be wonderful being back with my very own who I know and trust.

    Things I’m looking forward to in the USA

    My hairdresser and friend Michael

    Fourth of July – growing up this day was as anticipated as Christmas and I’m looking forward to a good ole summer family Fourth of July American BBQ – even if I have to plan it myself!  How American is that?  A patriot at heart and one of the summertime things I’m looking forward to in the USA.

    Arne is looking forward to running everyday on familiar territory as well as baseball and good craft beer!

    So get ready USA we are on my way!!

    NOTE – WiFi will be infrequent if at all on the cruise. I hope to post when I can.

    North America Travel

    Solo Road Trip on Historic Highway One

    My Solo Adventure

    Location: Pacific Coast Highway

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    Curious Seagull, Pacific Coast Highway

    Six days and 1300 miles behind me, I arrived home from my Road Trip Pacific Coat Highway (solo).  What’s in a name?  I mostly referred to it as “the route”, thanks to the friendly woman inside my Garmin navigator (who I affectionately call Lois). Whatever the name, it is well worth the time it takes to leisurely enjoy this twisting and turning coastal road.  It is unlike any other in the United States.

    “Lois” and I had six days, and set out to drive from Los Olivos, California to Gig Harbor, Washington.  I certainly thought six days seemed like plenty of time (Lois was non-commital) as we left Los Olivos on a hot and sunny September afternoon.  Six days, it turns out, was not enough time to road trip Pacific Coast Highway…I needed more time to really drink in the views, get out and hike the trails, breathe in the ocean spray and sink my toes in to the sand.  I needed more time. To relax.

    Lois – well she prefers to spend her time “recalculating”.

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Pismo Beach Kayakers

    With another week I may have even continued the trip all along the Washington coast – and frankly I think I will do that, sometime in the next month or so….I just feel compelled to see the rest and complete the quest. I know Lois will be up for it too.

    Driving the Pacific Coast Highway there were surprises: standing on the beach in Point Reyes without a breath of wind coming off the ocean.  Unheard of in my experience.

    There were frustrations: construction projects throughout the drive causing back-ups which Lois couldn’t possibly have prepared for. I tried to be patient, realizing how important it is to maintain this historic gem of a road and keep drivers safe.

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Stormy Beach

    There was peace: watching the sunrise at Cannon Beach as I did my morning run along the shore…the pink and gold of the new day bathing Haystack Rock and its sister rocks just as I was running by.  Took my breath away.

    There was adrenalin boost: when I slipped and fell on a muddy hill as I was trying to get a photo,
    catching myself only by grabbing a seedling within reach.  Thinking later about how long I might have laid on that rocky beach below before the next tourist trying to take a photo saw me there…

    There was variety: Hot sun and torrential downpours.  Fog, wind, beautiful clouds.  I saw it all.

    There was Lois: keeping me company, insisting on the  shortest route to my destination, which never was the Hwy 1 Coastal route.  She adjusted…eventually.

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    You see some strange things on a road trip

    And I would do it all again.  Driving the Pacific Coast Highway was rejuvenating and relaxing and restoring to travel alone, singing in the car, thinking, planning. Sometimes using the “mute” button on Lois.  Wish I had had a mute button when doing road trips when my kids were little.  And sometimes just being still.  A new skill I’m learning; being still.

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Early morning beach run

    I truly recommend making this quest – alone or with someone you love…there were certainly many moments I wished my husband was with me.  But it was also a great thing to do alone…to just be alone can be a really good thing for the soul.

    I didn’t see it all, but I did see a lot…enough to make some recommendations.  So take my advice or not, but find the time to make all or part of the beautiful and scenic Hwy 1/101 a part of a future road trip. Driving the Pacific Coast Highway alone or not, is a positively delightful experience.



    CALIFORNIA – Road Trip Pacific Coast Highway Solo

    Los Olivos

    In a word: Wine

    Yummy Eats: Los Olivos Café

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Los Olivos

    Claim to Fame: One of the film locations for the movie “Sideways”.  I actually haven’t seen this movie, I don’t know why.  Gotta check it out now.  My observation of Los Olivos was the “cute” factor is fairly new…perhaps a result of its brush with Hollywood.  No matter, tiny and quaint, its worth an hour or two.

    Lois says: Find a shady parking spot, on the street.  The sun here is hot, even in the fall.


    San Luis Obispo

    In a word: Friendly

    Yummy Eats: Firestone Grill – serving San Luis Obispo’s famous tri-tip sandwich

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Just outside of San Luis Obispo

    Pillow Talk: Cheap, clean and fabulous, the Peach Tree Inn on Hwy 101 is  a throwback to my childhood road trips in the station wagon with the fam. $79 a night.

    Claim to Fame: Named the most friendly city in the United States in 2010 by National Geographic writer Dan Buetner in his book Thrive.

    Home to the California Polytechnic University, this city has made a conscious effort to control growth and promote local (downtown still is a shopping area and has an outstanding Farmers Market, year – round, on Thursday nights), right down to no Target, no drive through restaurants. Yes I said no drive-through restaurants.  Why you ask?  Well SLO’s Mayor says they want people to get out of their cars!  Shhh…don’t tell Lois.

    Lois says: I love the old “Motor Inns” designed for road travel.  The Peach Tree was perfect.

    San Simeon

    In a word: Elephant Seals

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Sea Elephants – you can smell them a mile away

    Claim to Fame: Hearst Castle – worth a visit.  Can be long lines depending on the time of year

    Watch for the signs to stop at the Piedras Blancas and view the harems of these smelly, loud, entertaining and interesting coastal creatures who make this beach their home year-round, with peak season being February through May.

    Lois says: The parking lot at Piedras Blancas was muddy, watch for large potholes here…but plenty of parking available.

    Big Sur

    In a word: Stunning

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Stunning Big Sur

    Yummy Eats:  Be sure to go to Nepenthe, for the view as much as the food.  Meal was good, view was spectacular.  For breakfast don’t miss the Big Sur Bakery.  Try the Quiche or organic granola.

    Pillow Talk:  Lots of options in Big Sur – all expensive.  But for something fun and unique splurge on the fabulous Treebones Resort.  You won’t be sorry.

    Claim to Fame: The very rugged area did not see electricity until the 1950’s and the coast highway took 18 years to build.  Pioneers were a tough breed here, and early conservationists.  Their names are still visible throughout.

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Enjoying a beach walk

    Great hiking and views everywhere you go.  Don’t miss Julia Phieffer Burns State Park, Phieffer Beach and to the North the spectacular Point Lobos State Park where you can spend the whole day and not see it all. No cell phone service anywhere here, on Verizon anyway.

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    The road can be challenging. Pay Attention!

    Lois says: If you are prone to motion-sickness take your meds before joining me on this section of the route.  Very up, down and twisty and we don’t want any messes on the interior of the car.  Thank you.


    In a word: Tourists

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Monterrey Sunrise

    Yummy Eats: Fish Hoppers – delicious seafood risotto with a waterfront view.  Monterey has lots of options for dining on the water…some more touristy than others, but worth it to enjoy the salty smell and sights of the ocean here.

    Pillow Talk: Very disappointing room at Padre Oaks…for $200 it was old and sad.  But the motel was full, so that must mean $200 is the going rate.  Too bad, over my normal budget.

    Claim to Fame: The spectacular Monterey Aquarium is worth a visit, make the time, especially if you are traveling with kids.

    I particularly enjoyed a morning run along the waterfront.  A great trail that runs from Fishermen’s Wharf to Lovers Point was wonderful, flat and right next to the ocean.  Listening to the sea lions bark and the smell of the ocean breeze was a great way to start my day.

    Lois says: If you are only going to be in town a few hours skip the lots and park in street parking a few blocks out of the Cannery Row area.  Abundant and inexpensive.


    Half Moon Bay

    In a word: Charming

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Great fence outside of Half Moon Bay

    Yummy Eats: I had lunch at the Moonside Bakery and sat outside in the sun.  My turkey sandwich on croissant and latte were perfect. It was busy – always a good sign- and the clientele appeared to be both tourists and locals.

    Claim to Fame: A coastal gem, Half Moon Bay’s temperate climate, access to San Francisco and the coast position it perfect for a full vacation if you have the time.  Unfortunately, I did not.

    Lois says: Choose the “Business Route” to assure access to the downtown area of Half Moon Bay.  The area is well marked to access the beach here too.


    San Francisco

    In a word: Variety

    Yummy Eats:  So much fabulous food…so little time.

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    San Fran and the Golden Gate

    Claim to Fame: The history of San Francisco is deep.  This city played a major role in the developing California territory and the entire west coast with gold, lumber, fishing, fires and more.  San Francisco has also been a leader in gay rights, healthy lifestyle and technology.

    You really need to make San Fran a separate trip, but if you make it a stop on this trip and only have a day just stroll and enjoy the waterfront, the Golden Gate and the views.

    Some of the most stunning views on the route are after you cross the Golden Gate Bridge on Hwy 101, follow the signs to Hwy 1 which climbs up and over Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods. Spend time here if you  can, it’s really beautiful.  Be sure to pull into the Marin Headland overlook and enjoy the view here before descending down the winding road to the coast and several beaches including Stinson and Bolinas.

    Lois says:  Caution – keep your eyes on the road going over the Golden Gate Bridge…its hard to do, but safety first!



    In a word: Earthquake

    Yummy Eats: Sir and Star is a spectacular and surprisingly affordable restaurant in the heart of tiny Olema in a beautiful historic building.  I nearly died over the delicious dinner rolls, along with my trumpet mushroom salad and Bubble and Squeek.

    Pillow Talk: The Roundstone Farm Inn Bed and Breakfast offered a superb location to enjoy the area.  $170 a night included a nice breakfast.

    Claim to Fame: Home to the stunningly beautiful Point Reyes State Park which boasts miles of shoreline and hiking you could spend several days  here and I wish I had.  You can also walk on the San Andrea Fault which runs right through the area.  A great visitor center at Bear Valley is only minutes from Olema and is a great place to plan your day.

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Great California wine

    In the neighboring town of Point Reyes be sure to visit Cowgirl Creamery for the most outstanding cheese on the earth.

    Lois says: My GPS is a little iffy in this area…I really had a headache here.  You might want a back up paper map in the car just in case.



    In a word: Oysters

    Yummy Eats: Hog Island Oyster Bar

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Pacific Coast Oysters

    Claim to Fame:  If you love the bi-valve then this is the place.  Popular with the weekend crowd from the city, but open most days, you can enjoy sitting at the outdoor beach bar and slurp raw or cooked oysters, you can buy oysters to go, and you can also see the oyster farm.  Worth a stop!

    Lois says: You come upon this place quickly so be watching and aware of cars turning into the valet parking lot. I recommend valet always…such cute guys at the valet!


    Point Arena

    In a word: Lighthouse

    Claim to Fame: The only pacific coast lighthouse where you can climb to the top (115 feet), Point Arena is worth a stop.  The views from the road are also spectacular.  A nice stop to stretch and breath the sea air.

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    So picturesque

    Lois says:  You’ll catch sight of the lighthouse easily from the road.  There is a perfect pull out on the ocean side to stop and snap a few photos.



    In a word: Redwoods

    Yummy Eats: The Avenue Cafe is a great spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner – right on the world famous Avenue of the Giants.  Pancakes – yum.

    <alt img = "pacific coast highway">

    Redwood Forest

    Pillow Talk: Miranda Gardens is a cozy and fun spot for a night or two  right in the middle of the giant trees and close to everything Redwoods, including the Avenue of the Giants.

    Claim to Fame: Big Trees.  Even if you’ve seen them, every time I still feel so small.  It’s astonishingly beautiful and renews your appreciation for Mother Nature and her ability to amaze.

    Lois says: Lights on for safety in this area.  Big Trees = dark roads.

    OREGON – Road Trip Pacific Coast Highway Solo

    Gold Beach

    In a word: Wild

    Yummy Eats: This is a town you want to have seafood in.  Check out the Nor’Wester for Seafood and Chowder.

    Pillow Talk:  Fabulous lodging at the historic Ireland’s Rustic Lodges.  Get a cabin if available (mine was darling and the bed very comfy) or ask for a lodge room with an ocean view. The cabins don’t have views but are roomy and include a small fridge and microwave.  Oceanside rooms do as well.

    Claim to Fame: Gold Beach touts itself as the “Wild Side” and rightly so.  Enjoy wild crashing waves on deserted ocean beaches, wildlife, wild salmon and wild views all with fewer people than some other towns along the Oregon Coast.  Easy access to the wild Rogue River as well.

    Walk to the beach in the early morning and you will likely have the place to yourself.  A great way to to start the day

    Lois says: The final section of Hwy 1/Hwy 101 out of Rockport before you hit Crescent City and cross into Oregon is very steep and windy.  We tackled it in a rainstorm as well.  If possible, plan your trip to be on this section during daylight hours.


    Cannon Beach

    In a word: Shopping

    Yummy Eats: A perfect lunch or light dinner choice is Sweet Basils.  Great tapas and wine as well as a nice happy hour in the summer season.

    Pillow Talk: Cannon Beach Hotel – I loved this quaint hotel one block from the beach. The building is old but beautifully restored and the rooms are small but very comfortable.  The breakfast which is included in the price was the best I had on my trip in the cozy french cafe that adjoins the hotel.  Tres magnifique!

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    Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach

    Claim to Fame: The sand is world famous here, known as the singing sands.  The world famous Cannon Beach Sand Castle Festival is in June, but enjoy the sand and beautiful beach any time of year.  Bring a jacket.  Lots of great shopping here too, if that’s your thing.  Stay more than one day and also visit beautiful Seaside just 8 miles up the road.  I also recommend a visit to Ecola State Park for the view.  If you have time, hike around.  I saw several elk here.

    Lois says: For some reason driving on the ocean beach is a popular activity here.  I’m not into it myself, but if you are, and have the right vehicle, it’s legal.

    WASHINGTON – Road Trip Pacific Coast Highway Solo


    In a word: Shipwrecks

    Yummy Eats: The Depot Restaurant is a great place to combine a great meal with history and ambiance.

    Claim to Fame: Ilwaco on the Long Beach Peninsula has a wealth of history as a hub for transportation on both land, sea and river.  It’s primary seafaring and transportation position has also created many shipwrecks through the years.  Today its still a hub for fishing, transportation, seafood, cranberries and tourism.

    A stop at Cape Disapointment State Park will greet you with spectacular views, two lighthouses and a wonderful museum/interpretive center on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

    I did not spend the night here, but hope to go back and do so, as this area is worth several days to explore.

    Lois says: I used my Washington State Parks annual pass here, well worth the purchase if you visit many of our State’s parks through out the year.


    South Bend

    In a word: Seafood

    Yummy Eats: East Point Seafood has fresh, canned and frozen seafood to go as well as an outdoor fish and chips stand.  Don’t miss it!

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    I love oysters

    Claim to Fame: Famous for Willapa Bay and the fabulous oysters produced there.  Even if you are just driving through town, be sure to stop and pick up some to go.

    Lois says: Watch the speed limit, these small town police love to give you a ticket.


    I left Hwy 101 at the town of Raymond and headed East over to I-5 and took I-5 from Chehalis on home.  I will hopefully continue the tour in the next month or so and enjoy the rest of the rugged Washington Coast section of this wonderful route. With Lois of course – she was a great companion!

    More on that when I (we) do!






    North America Travel

    Solo Las Vegas

    Fun Things to do Alone in Las Vegas

    Location: Las Vegas Nevada

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    Iconic Las Vegas

    So how do you Solo Las Vegas?  Don’t worry – there are lots of things to do!  I wasn’t really sure how this was going to go, but, I have to say, I had a wonderful time enjoying my time alone.  I’m not a gambler and I’m not too interested in anything to raunchy or risqué.  But there is so much in this city beyond all the “what happens here” stuff.  It’s what I love about Vegas.  Unfortunately some of the best stuff gets lost behind all the glitz.

    So I found myself getting lost in Las Vegas. My sixth time in Vegas is my first time alone here.  Why would you come to Vegas alone?  Well, it’s a long story, but my husband is camping with college friends in Death Valley (two hours Northwest) and I am in town to run a half marathon.  So I decided to take on Vegas solo…just another thing I am learning in my fabulous fifties.  Solo Las Vegas is okay. Alone; but certainly not bored in this town.

    I booked a room at the Flamingo.  We’ve stayed here several times before.  The Flamingo definitely has the best pool in town…but, not so much in November.  It never occurred to me to check if the pool was open.  It wasn’t.  Oh well, it is November after-all, but the weather was great and I was looking forward to a little pool time.


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    Flamingos at the Flamingo

    Vegas Tip:  Depending on the season, ask questions when you book your room.  Vegas is not hot year around, but November is a great time to travel here, as the crowds are down and so are the room rates.

    The Flamingo upgraded me to a suite when they were not able to offer me the King bed I had requested.  Every time I have been in Vegas I have found the hotels willing to give you upgrades or perks.  The rooms are not where they make the money, so they want you happy and a loyal return customer.  So ask.

    Vegas Tip:  Over the years I’ve stayed at the Flamingo, Planet Hollywood and the Monte Carlo.  For me, I avoid the “themed” hotels because they are more crowded and noisier with gamblers and shoppers.  You are always welcome at any of the hotels whether you are staying or not.  So I choose something quieter and smaller and just visit the giant hotels for the fun stuff.

    I decided on this visit to check out some things in Vegas I had never done before, including some things in the outlying area.  So I rented a car.  You don’t need a car if you are planning on staying only on the “Strip”.  But if you are in Vegas more than a couple of days, I really recommend getting a car…there are some amazing things to see within a few minutes of the strip and just an hour or two outside of town.  It’s safe and the roads are good so a solo Las Vegas trip can include some outlying adventures.

    Vegas Tip:  Parking is free everywhere.  The hotels really want you to come in and gamble, so parking is free and abundant.  In my home city of Seattle you will pay $30 or more a night for parking at downtown hotels.  Not so in Vegas.  Take this perk into consideration in your decision on renting a car.

    On this trip I visited three destinations in my car.  I recommend all three;

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    Me in Death Valley

    Valley of the Fire State Park – 1 hour Northeast.  What a stunning surprise this park was.  It is surprising this park is not a National Park.  It felt like a miniature Arches or Bryce Canyon.  You can easily see this park in a half a day, either from your car or on a handful of wonderful walks or hikes that fit any skill level.

    Red Rock Canyon National Monument – 30 min West.  Another stunningly beautiful park with a great scenic drive if you don’t want to hike.  If you do want to hike there are lots of great little trials though this beautiful park.

    Death Valley National Park – 2 hours Northwest.  Worth the drive (in the winter or early spring).  You can do this trip in a day, or you can stay the night in Furnace Creek. Death Valley is a remarkable place.  Several incredible sites are within sight of the main road, showing off the interesting geological aspects of the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere.

    Vegas Tip:  I did not go this time to Hoover Dam or Lake Mead but these destinations are also an easy drive from the Strip.  In addition, Grand Canyon is about three hours away.  You can easily make Vegas your home base to experience some of our countries greatest sites.

    Back in Vegas I decided to take in two Cirque de Soleil shows during my visit.  On previous visits I have seen some of the  “showgirl” type of shows (Jubilee, Crazy Girls, Burlesque) and I have also seen Blue Man Group, Wayne Brady, Kathy Griffin and Jersey Boys.  I’ve also seen Menopause the Musical several times, both in Seattle and in Las Vegas.  This show is hilarious, and continues its long Las Vegas run at Harrahs.  Laugh out loud – even if you are on a solo Las Vegas adventure.

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    Bellagio Glass Ceiling

    Solo in Las Vegas I saw the Beatles Love one night and Mystere the next.  Cirque shows are all spectacular, but I am always impressed how they can make each show so different.  It makes you want to see all the shows.  Love and Mystere were very different from each other, as well as very different from the two shows I have seen previously (OZumanity and KA).  Beatles Love showcased original Beatles recordings including never before heard conversations of the Fab Four in the recording studio.  Using these original works Cirque designed a wonderfully nostalgic walk down Beatles memory lane, using their signature acrobatics, special effects and costumes.

    Mystere was very different from Love.  I laughed out loud so many times during this, fun and light show which excelled not only in comedy but in costuming and definitely in acrobatics.  This show included a great deal of audience interaction. I really loved it. And guess what?  Being solo, I was escorted from my balcony seat down to row three!  Perks for solo Las Vegas!

    KA and O remain my all time favorites, but it really is difficult to compare these shows.  There is nothing else like them on earth, and that is why they fit so perfectly well in Vegas.

    Vegas Tip: Discount tickets can be purchased day of often for 50% off.  Don’t expect to find all the shows available though.  The very popular shows such as KA, “O”, Celine Dion, or Elton John are rarely available.  If you have your heart set on these blockbuster shows buy your tickets before you come to Vegas and be prepared to pay full price.


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    Fountain at the Bellagio

    Of course a fabulous thing to do in Vegas, when you are solo or anytime, is shop!  Some of my favorite shopping areas are at The Venetian, The Bellagio and ParisThe Fashion Show Mall, across from The Wynn is also very popular.  This trip I was shopping for make up and a new handbag and boy did I have a lot of places to choose from.  There are many shopping areas I have still to tackle, so of course I have some great reasons to make another trip to the “Strip”.

    The days are over where Vegas was a cheap destination.  You still can find inexpensive meals and hotels, but the really hot items are gonna cost you.  So if you are on a budget (few of us aren’t) get lost enjoying some of the free entertainment available all around you.  You just gotta know where to look.   Since I was alone, I really enjoyed just walking around and taking in the sights and sounds. Be sure to stop and see the fabulous fountain show (free) outside of the Bellagio check times here, the amazing atrium indoor garden (changes seasonally) inside the Bellagio (free and one of my top things to do in Vegas), and the belching volcano outside the Mirage check times here.

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    Slotzilla in Freemont

    Be sure to check out the free light show in Fremont ( one of my top things to do in Vegas). In fact Fremont is really fun, and its too bad more people never get down there.  If you are brave enough the a highlight in Fremont is the Slotzilla Zipline!  Not free but so much fun!  Get your tickets in advance, because it often fills up! I can’t wait to do this again.

    People watching is fantastic, interesting, entertaining and free way to spend some time; have a seat and watch the show.  Solo Las Vegas you will see rhinestone and sequins next to jeans and t-shirts, and sometimes hardly nothing at all.  But it is Vegas.  It’s come as you are (or as you want to be) everywhere in Las Vegas.

    Vegas Tip:  If you are planning on being in town in November or December check into special shopping packages  available at many of the hotels.  These packages include shuttle services to many of the best shopping malls.

    Vegas Tip: Although the Monorail, in my judgement, should extend both North to Fremont and South to the Airport, it currently runs from the MGM North to the Convention Center.  Depending on where you want to go, it might be a good choice to help you get around, especially for a solo Las Vegas adventure. Taxi’s are plentiful as well.

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    Me on the right – Slotzilla Zipline

    Some of my favorite solo Las Vegas sites I discovered on this trip.  Not free but for a minimal $18 I highly recommend the wonderful Neon Boneyard Museum, just North of Fremont (free parking).  This guided tour is a fascinating walk down Vegas memory lane.  A night-time tour (with lights) is also available.  This might now be my favorite thing to do in Vegas.  For a minimal charge I also recommend the New York New York roller coaster, the trip up the Eiffel Tower and the changing exhibits at the Imagines Exhibitions Gallery at the Venetian.  This visit I lost myself here enjoying a most remarkable exhibit of National Geographic photography for only $20.  Many people really love the High Roller Wheel.  I thought it was just okay.  

    You do get a good view, and you can have drinks while you make the full circle…it just wasn’t as exciting as I was expecting.  But you can’t love everything I guess.

    Being a coffee addict, I have to say, finding a good cup of coffee in the hotels is tough.  You will pay more for a cup of coffee than you will for a beer a lot of places.  No Vegas hotel I have ever stayed in has provided coffee in the room….remember they want you in the casino not in your room.  However there are several Starbucks throughout the strip (and other espresso kind of shops) if you are in need. When you are on your solo Las Vegas adventure coffee is a must.  And don’t forget, Starbucks always has free wi-fi too, so don’t pay your hotel for wi-fi if you don’t want to.

    Vegas Tip:  I’ve noticed in the shopping mall areas you will find many shops and restaurants offering wifi.  I locked on to free wifi at Sephora of all places while at the Planet Hollywood shopping mall.

    I can’t write this whole love-fest article about Vegas without talking about food.  You could spend the rest of you life just getting Lost in the Las Vegas food scene. You can spend $2 or $200 or $2000.  There is something for every pallet and wallet in Vegas. Now don’t be shy.  Just because you are solo doesn’t meant you shouldn’t eat well!  Every Celebrity Chef you can think of has a place in Vegas.  These Chefs are, of course, not actually in the kitchen.  So you are paying for the name.  I’ve dined at many of these places not always successfully.  I will give a big thumbs up though to Tom Collichio’s Craft Steak at the MGM and

    Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill at Caesar’s Palace and Hubert Keller’s Fleur at Mandalay Bay.

    Vegas Tip:  Check out Top Vegas restaurants and tons of other great information at my favorite Vegas website

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    High Roller Wheel

    Some of the best food I’ve had in Las Vegas are in places where you never heard of the Chef;  Hash House A Go Go at the Plaza in Fremont (two other locations as well),  Picasso at Bellagio, The Buffet at the Bellagio, the Oyster Bar at Harrah’s, The Border Grill at the Mandalay Bay,  Lotus of Siam off strip, and Mon Abi Gabi at Paris, Indian Oven off strip and the iconic Peppermill.

    So I survived my four days solo in sin city and I can highly recommend getting lost in Las Vegas, alone or with a friend.  You can make Vegas whatever you want; highly charged and fast paced, or slow down relax and enjoy the scenery.  It’s a bit of a freak of nature in that way –  well, that’s Vegas.

    Loose yourself. Solo or not.